Posts Tagged ‘digital sustainability’

What is digital sustainability?

Thursday, March 25th, 2021

Monika Stobiecka (Faculty of Liberal Arts, Warsaw University) gave an interesting lecture entitled Digital sustainability: what happens when we digitize everything? It was part of a series of lectures organised to mark 20 years of Sustainable Heritage at UCL.

She asked some pertinent issues linked to the notion of digital sustainability:

  • digitisation is maybe not always worth the money it costs!
  • should we stop mass digitisation and invest in high-quality projects instead?
  • we need to learn to let go of established institutions like traditional museums!
  • lets collaborate more with gamers!

Here is the full abstract of Monika’s talk:

The last few years have shown that in heritage policy all over the world priority has been given to digitization. International, national, and regional authorities and academies generously support researchers and technicians working on digital heritage. Almost everything considered valuable is registered, stored in databases, or presented in museums, and finally, saved for posterity in various digital formats. However, this ubiquitous turn towards the digital that has taken over heritage studies still lacks a proper theoretical and critical framework. Many authors notice this severe theoretical lack, which often leads to techno-fetishism, particularly visible in projects where researchers, following the fast-science track, indiscriminately collect more and more data by applying the latest methods, to create more and more representations, reconstructions, simulations, or even simulacra. All too often, digital heritage is based on a simple problem-solution mechanism, dismissing the ethical implications. It is high time to think about the future of digital heritage and repeat the question posed by Harold Thwaites: what happens when we digitize everything? (Thwaites 2013). Or go further and ask: what are the ethical implications of this mass digitization – will the digital replace the material? In my presentation I will discuss if digital heritage can be sustainable, and if the practice can be slow and thoughtful, instead of fast and managerial. My questions will embrace aspects of digital heritage related to digital materiality, energy use, and accessibility and public use. My speech will be illustrated with the preliminary results of a study on Polish digital and virtual collections. Throughout my talk I will investigate the future of digital heritage. Assuming that we are witnessing digital heritagization, I will ask further about the implications of this preference for the digital for sustainable heritage development.


Thwaites, H. 2013. “Digital Heritage: What Happens When We Digitize Everything?” In Visual Heritage in the Digital Age, edited by E. Chang et al., 327-349. London: Springer- Verlag.